To build your writing career, grow your abilities in 4 dimensions

Man and the Expanding Universe, Marshall M. Fredericks

Writers need to grow, or else the work gets boring. You’ll be more versatile, more employable, and happier if your always looking for ways to expand your capabilities.

Seek opportunities to grow your experience in these four dimensions:

  1. Subject matter. The best writers are endlessly curious about a wide variety of topics. If you start writing about finance, look for opportunities to write about technology, commerce, politics, or medicine. Authors can build from vertical market expertise to books on strategy, leadership, personal development, or marketing, for example. All topics have overlaps with other topics; this is your opportunity to expand the breadth of your learning into new spaces. That’s especially useful if your favorite topic space experiences a downturn, as tech is right now.
  2. Format. If you start writing how-to blog posts, for example, seek opportunities to write in other formats: press releases, marketing copy, op-eds, or white papers, for example. If you write books, you could expand from self-help to memoir, business narrative, or humor.
  3. Role. If you’ve got a facility with words, writing for yourself is just one option. Writers can also contribute as ghostwriters, editors, writing coaches, or managers.
  4. Mode of work. Some writers work for companies, which generates a steady salary but limits you to filling needs specified by others. Other writers work freelance, a flexible modality that requires you to find your own projects and market yourself. Others work through agencies. Writers often cycle through these roles, for example, going freelance if they’re laid off from a writing a job.

Pivot and grow based on what you’re comfortable with

Work can be simpler if you hold one of these dimensions steady while you seek opportunities to grow in other directions.

For example, supposed you love writing marketing copy. You could learn to do that for a manufacturing company and then expand to companies in retail, energy, or technology. You could write marketing copy as a copywriter, and then expand to managing other copywriters or editing their work. You could move from a copywriting position at a company to one at an agency, or make yourself available as a freelance copywriter.

Or, suppose you love editing. Start by editing research reports, expand into editing books. Edit blog posts about management, marketing, or strategy. Edit as a freelancer or for an agency, or take an editing post at a media company.

Writing is such a protean skill that it creates opportunities throughout the working world. Smart writers expand their experience with subject matter, master different formats, explore different roles, and vary who they work for, depending on shifts in their interests and available positions. It’s not just a way to gain more opportunities. It’s a way to make sure that you’re constantly challenged and growing. That’s way more enjoyable than standing still.

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